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Two decades of community work makes Brighton charity worker Local Hero
There is no need to dress up the two decades of work this local hero has done for the community.
Vania Wells, pictured, is the brains behind the Gladrags Community Resource in Brighton – a charity that brings more than 5,000 affordable dressing-up costumes to community groups, schools, colleges and low budget projects across the city.
The charity, which was founded by Vania in 1994, recently received a Sussex Community Foundation grant of £4,765 to support creative workshops for eight to 11-year-olds.
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The sessions teach practical sewing skills and run dress-up activities that encourage social interaction and creative play. They are held in local libraries and community centres and are delivered by up to 12 volunteers.
Vania and her Gladrags team help disadvantaged people in the most deprived areas of Brighton, Newhaven and Worthing, plus those with special educational needs including travellers and young carers.The charity also recently welcomed a group of young women offenders to a dressing up and photo shoot session.Vania said: “We did some work with them to help them interact with the community and just have some fun.
“Some of them had been in prison and were going through a rough time, but it gave them the opportunity to really escape where they were.
“One of them dressed up as a superhero and another in really glamorous clothes.
“Once the sometimes aggressive and vulnerable guard is dropped, their softer side comes out and they really revel in it.”
Vania was working as a care worker and in community theatre when Gladrags started in 1994.
She said: “I started doing informal reminiscence work with some of the older people I cared for, talking to them about the 1930s, with music and clothes from their younger days.“Gladrags really grew organically from that. Watching people transform themselves into whatever they want to be, and almost forgetting their troubles and problems in the process, is really rewarding to watch. It can also be really beneficial to them as well.”
She added: “Costume is really transforming. In many of the schools we work with the children don’t come from families where there is a big dressing-up box on hand.
“Putting on a costume makes them take the whole activity much more seriously.
“They get into character and it doesn’t feel like them anymore.”
For more information on the charity visit gladragscostumes.org.uk.
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